On the Loose
A Jeep in the El Salvadoran jungle is not the most typical place for two people to fall in love, but that’s where it happens in Tara Janzen’s On The Loose. This novel is fast-paced and suspenseful, but falls short on several points.
Four months after an incredible night with socialite Honey York, C. Smith Rydell is called off of a mission in Panama to be her personal security guard. As a Special Defense Forces soldier, security detail is not what he wants to be doing. However, he quickly realizes that Honey is not your average socialite and her trip to Central America is not a for vacation.
Honey’s sister Julia, a nun in El Salvador, is missing. All Honey knows is that a priest referred to a pregnancy in an angry letter left behind. As a result of Honey’s connections to an El Salvadoran drug lord, she is approached by the CIA to bring a locked briefcase to his camp. Smith is to act as her security guard, find a downed CIA plane, and retrieve a flash drive. Alejandro Campos, Honey’s connection, is meant to serve as an intermediary between the United States government and a captain of a fictional El Salvadoran militia. At the same time, the secrets of the secluded convent are revealed, Honey’s secret identity and profession come to light, and a woman from Smith’s past is out to kill him.
Sound complicated? Well, it sort of is. Not quite as complex as this brief summary may have it appear, but it still has a fair amount of layers to the plot that makes it hard to follow at times. The book is a spin-off from Janzen’s Steele Streeet series, so some of the characters may be familiar to Janzen readers. They were all new to me, however, and I found it tough to keep track of everybody.
Another problem was the book’s time frame. Smith and Honey have 48 hours to complete their mission, and they fall in love? It didn’t convince me. Also, I had a hard time believing that the CIA would send an untrained, wealthy woman into a hostile country with classified, sensitive materials, in order to secure a deal with the leader of a rebel army. Now, I’m sure the CIA does a lot of things that would surprise me, but it’s just such a huge liability for them that the plot seemed a bit contrived to me as a reader.
Despite all the criticism I just gave, the book isn’t bad. Janzen writes suspense well and overall I liked Smith and Honey, and their interactions with each other. However, the book as a whole fell flat for me. It’s not a bad book, but it’s just not a great one either.